How the Share My Seder initiative brought a London Charedi family and an American woman together for Passover

'She came into our home as a stranger but now she is not a stranger at all'


Two years ago, journalist James Masters used his Twitter to offer his Seder night to those without one and promptly went viral. He ended up inviting a stranger to share Passover with his family.

Now, his Share My Seder initiative this year helped people without somewhere to go link up with hosts, from the UK and New York to Milan. 

Among them were Yael Simon and her Charedi family in north west London.

Mrs Simon, who is used to hosting strangers for Shabbat, saw his tweet asking for people who were willing to open up their homes for people in need.

“The whole point of the Seder is to turn strangers into family. So when I saw his tweet I thought 'of course',” she told the JC.

Mrs Simon was not sure what to expect until a she received a message on LinkedIn from an American woman who was new to London and did not want to spend her Seder alone.

“It was the ultimate shidduchim,” she said.

Mrs Simon never met Mr Masters, nor her soon-to-be Seder guest.

Annelise Bianchinia, 31-year-old actress, found the Share My Seder initiative after posting on a Facebook group for actors in the hope she might find some fellow Jews who would want to do something.

“Before I knew it people had replied to me and told me to email Share My Seder. It was typical internet,” she said.

When she arrived at Mrs Simon’s home within 72 hours of her signing up, there was a lot of excitement.

Mrs Simon said she welcomed Ms Bianchini like she was “one of the family".

“My mum is from Chicago and I was upstairs getting ready when the door went. By the time I came downstairs my mum had given her a huge hug and she and Annelise were best friends,” she said.

Ms Bianchini, who moved to London in January from Brooklyn to pursue her career, said she was feeling “sad that I might spend Seder alone,” until the offer to attend Mrs Simon’s arrived.

Having moved from America, she said she was more familiar with "liberal and reform Jews" but that did not stop her feeling at home.

Ms Bianchini said the experience left her feeling like she “can pay more attention” to her Jewish identity and culture.

“It was really cool to have a religious family host me. I was a little nervous at first but it was lovely. As soon as I arrived I felt like this is my tribe and that is such a precious feeling. I didn’t feel like I had to be anything but who I was.

“Everyone was so involved and they had liked 100 different Haggadah to choose from. We were having so much fun we didn’t eat till like 1.30am.”

For Mrs Simon it was a chance to for her family “to do what we can and what we are supposed to do. It was amazing.”

She added: “Annelise came into our home as a stranger but now she is not a stranger at all.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive